Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War

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The emir of Bukhara used assassin bugs to eat away the flesh of his prisoners. General Ishii Shiro during World War II released hundreds of millions of infected insects across China, ultimately causing more deaths than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. These are just two of many startling examples found in Six-legged Soldiers, a brilliant portrait of the many weirdly creative, truly frightening, and ultimately powerful ways in which insects have been used as weapons of war, terror, and torture.
Beginning in prehistoric times and building toward a near and disturbing future, the reader is taken on a journey of innovation and depravity. Award-winning science writer Jeffrey A. Lockwood begins with the development of "bee bombs" in the ancient world and explores the role of insect-borne disease in changing the course of major battles, ranging from Napoleon's military campaigns to the trenches of World War I. He explores the horrific programs of insect warfare during World War II: airplanes dropping plague-infested fleas, facilities rearing tens of millions of hungry beetles to destroy crops, and prison camps staffed by doctors testing disease-carrying lice on inmates. The Cold War saw secret government operations involving the mass release of specially developed strains of mosquitoes on an unsuspecting American public--along with the alleged use of disease-carrying and crop-eating pests against North Korea and Cuba. Lockwood reveals how easy it would be to use of insects in warfare and terrorism today: In 1989, domestic ecoterrorists extorted government officials and wreaked economic and political havoc by threatening to release the notorious Medfly into California's crops.
A remarkable story of human ingenuity--and brutality--Six-Legged Soldiers is the first comprehensive look at the use of insects as weapons of war, from ancient times to the present day.

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About the Author:


Jeffrey A. Lockwood is Professor of Natural Sciences & Humanities at the University of Wyoming, where he teaches in the department of philosophy and in the MFA program in creative writing. An accomplished writer, his work has been included in the popular anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he is winner of both a Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Award. He is the author of Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving and Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier.

From Publishers Weekly:

Few people think of flies, scorpions or potato bugs as weapons of war, but entomologist Lockwood (Grasshopper Dreaming), winner of a Pushcart Prize and a James Burroughs Award, details in this fascinating study how creepy crawlies have been used against the enemy since antiquity. The Romans' siege of a desert fortress ended abruptly when buckets of scorpions were dumped on their heads. Many a medieval army catapulted beehives or hornets' nests over a castle's ramparts to drive out the defenders. The Vietcong used a version of this trick, setting off small explosives near huge beehives when American soldiers walked by. Lockwood tells how the Japanese used Chinese civilians as human guinea pigs in their program to weaponize plague and other diseases. And Lockwood explores charges by the North Koreans and Fidel Castro that America has called out insect troops on occasion as well. Fortunately, as the author points out, insects aren't very cooperative soldiers, and using them to deliver diseases is much easier said than done. Both science and military history buffs will learn much from Lockwood, a self-described skeptic with a sense of humor. 49 b&w illus. (Oct.)
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